More away-day agony as Owls' set-piece woe helps Orient produce

Leyton Orient 4 Sheffield Wednesday 0

AWAY games these days present the Owls with a pleasant surprise or a nasty shock.

There is no doubt which category Saturday's fell into.

At Exeter they were all square at the mid-point but collapsed in the second half and were thrashed 5-1.

At Huddersfield they were beaten only by a wonder goal that came out of the blue.

At Bristol City they looked in danger at half-time of going out of the FA Cup but produced an astonishing transformation in the second half to triumph deservedly 3-0.

But at Leyton Orient it was a collapse like the one at Exeter, another contest where the Owls looked reasonably well poised at half-time but then paid for flawed defending.

It was another game where at half-time no-one saw the result coming.

Great away support - 2,350 out of a crowd of 6,449 - roared on the Owls when they were well in the game and then looked on in horror as their team crumpled and Leyton Orient became inspired after taking the lead thanks to a bizarre penalty incident in the 51st minute.

Was it a penalty? At the time, I didn't think any contact was intentional. Slow-motion reviews probably give a clue about why the ref gave it.

Gary Teale lifted his arm out of the way; there was then a downward movement of the arm, followed by an upward jerk, and the ball brushed his arm as it was on the way back up. All that happened in a split second.

I still don't think that he intended to handle. Teale and teammates were angry when the decision was given. The ref maybe noticed that downward movement and, as big appeal went up from Orient and their fans, it was the home side who got the benefit of any doubt.

The ball arrived to Teale after Alex Revell had escaped Daniel Jones to knock down a free header at the far post.

Alan Irvine, without yet having seen the penalty incident again, said: "I thought it did hit his hand but I didn't think he tried to handle it. My feeling was that it bounced up and hit him."

The goal changed the game.

Wednesday had shaded the first half. Reda Johnson was a commanding figure at the back, with Michael Morrison slotting in as his partner.

Gary Madine made a promising debut and Teale and Jones continually made inroads down the left.

Chris Sedgwick was presented with two chances: one cleared off the line, the other knocked wide after a Teale shot was saved.

Wednesday many other times in 90 minutes worried the O's in their box but keeper Jamie Jones was not overworked.

New captain Nicky Weaver, on the other hand, splendidly blocked an early volley, pulled off a brilliant one-handed stop at 1-0 and beat out a close-range header at 2-0.

As at Exeter, the worry for Wednesday was the way they conceded so easily after going behind.

Six minutes after the opener, Harry Kane, a 17-year-old centre-forward on loan from Spurs and making his full debut, ran in behind the defence unhindered to score, with Jones and sub Mark Beevers closest as he burst into space to meet a free-kick.

Before the third goal, Wednesday had five against three for a free-kick played towards the far post area but Revell got in behind Beevers and Reda Johnson for a free header.

The fourth goal was a bit of a freak. Paul-Jose Mpoku whipped a free-kick into the box; again a runner nipped forward into space, this time Stephen Dawson, and Weaver was distracted by him. He narrowly missed the ball, which bounced and carried on speedily into the far corner.

Wednesday were not helped by the disruption cause by injuries.

Madine took a bang in the face straight from the kick-off and a blow to the back of the head later; he felt dizzy at half-time, said Alan Irvine.

The gamble of playing Lewis Buxton ended with him feeling his hamstring again and he too had to stay off. That meant Michael Morrison having to revert to right-back, and left-footer Beevers playing out of position in the right-side centre-back spot vacated on Friday by Darren Purse.

At half-time Tommy Miller had a tight hamstring. He lasted until the 59th minute but then Sedgwick had to be moved into central midfield and Jermaine Johnson was sent on.

New boy Mark Reynolds was not risked at all, after overcoming a hamstring niggle last week.

Irvine reflected: "It was a gamble playing Lewis; circumstances dictated that we did so. To have played Mark as well would have been a risk too far."

He expects Madine to be fit for tomorrow's home game against Yeovil.

Buxton and Miller will be assessed and Buxton must be a doubt.

Irvine was pleased with Madine's form: "He was playing well. He was giving them problems. He and Clinton were linking up well.

"I looked at the way Leyton Orient have been playing and I felt that they would be the best front two. I thought that was vindicated in the first part of the game."

On his choice of Weaver as skipper, Irvine said: "It's early days. I thought Nicky was the best person to captain us for this game."

The Owls struggled to create anything in the second half. There were some scrambles in the Orient box where Wednesday never got a break, and you just knew it was one of those days.

MANAGER'S VIEW

It was awful, a very poor performance from set-pieces. The penalty might have been a bit harsh, a bit soft.

From there, you have to make sure you don't crumble; we gave ourselves a problem by the way we defended free-kicks.

We were good for the first half hour. We had good chances and got balls in the box. But we didn't score. We didn't finish the half too well.

Then we had to make three changes.

We have been a lot better than that in terms of defending set-pieces.

Maybe it's the fact that we have new players in there and we haven't had time to do that much work on it.

We're obviously going to have to do more work on that.

Got a view? Leave a comment below.

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